Speech Pathology Programs and Training

Speech pathologists are medical professionals charged with treating problems in speech, understanding, and vocalizing. Disorders may arise because of congenital or environmental issues. Since many of these problems appear in early childhood, a large number of patients a speech pathologist works with are young children. Speech pathologists also treat patients who have speech problems due to trauma or illness. Speech pathologists often work with patients who have swallowing difficulties, as these are related to the areas that create speech and voice. Therapy might resemble physical therapy, strengthening muscles and neural pathways. It might include repetition and drills to exercise the system. It may even involve teaching patients new methods of communication outside of speech and voice. To learn more about this health care field, it is helpful to examine speech pathology programs and training.

Speech pathologists typically learn their trade at postgraduate medical schools. Many receive masterís degrees, while another large group earns doctoral degrees in the subject. Speech pathology programs are available at many universities and educational hospitals. Both masterís programs and doctoral programs require applicants to have undergraduate degrees. In addition, many programs have educational prerequisites, specific coursework in biological science, human development, and even speech pathology. It may help serious applicants to have a degree in a related field so that they come prepared with classes already completed.

Speech pathologists pursuing a masterís degree should expect to need two to three years to finish a program and its clinical practice requirements. They can expect to spend time studying speech development in infants and children. They will take coursework in dysphagia (disorders in swallowing). They will study common disorders affecting speech and understanding. There will be courses in the therapies used to help patients learn or recover speech function.

Speech pathology programs generally offer students a chance to gain clinical experience working under the supervision of a clinical supervisor. This allows them to get hands-on experience in a safe environment, as a degree-holding professional has the ultimate responsibility. This kind of real-world training is invaluable because it lets speech pathologists understand what the job will entail when they are given full responsibility. It also gives students a chance to network and get advice from potential employers. It is not unheard of for speech pathologists to be hired by institutions that have hosted their clinical educations.

There is further training available for speech pathologists in postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral scholarships are offered to doctoral degree holders who have specific research they want to carry out. Many scientific institutions and universities hire postdoctoral scholars to work on research as a member of a team. Funding comes from government and private endowments. Postdoctoral years are a great way to continue learning a trade while getting paid and improving the heft of curriculum vitae. In addition, speech pathologists open up the field of research as a career opportunity. The final piece of training for a professional who has completed a speech pathology program and even done a postdoctoral year or two is on-the-job training. Speech pathologists should continue their education, keeping up-to-date about the latest trends in their industry. Many hospitals offer training to staff. Professional associations are another good source for continued training. Associations offer members lecture series by top professionals and often publish journals that inform speech pathologists about new techniques and research. Associations also offer classes to members to help them meet recertification requirements.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014